Andy Abeyta/”The Desert Sun”/USA TODAY NETWORK/Imagn
Frank Ocean’s polarizing Coachella set and subsequent cancellation days before the festival’s second weekend sparked an outpouring of backlash from festival-goers and fans alike. With little still known about what happened, several sources involved in the performance are now telling rolling stone that aside from Ocean’s ankle injury cited by his team, the performance encountered production issues and delays that led to a last-minute “scramble”.
The day after his set, a rep for Ocean said rolling stone that he suffered two fractures to his left leg in the days leading up to the show during a bicycle incident, which caused unexpected changes in the concert’s production and led to the cancellation of Weekend Two.
The Thursday before his show, Ocean and his hired performers arrived on the festival grounds for an in-person rehearsal on Coachella’s main stage. Those in attendance were able to listen to Ocean’s raw voice as he checked out the sound. According to multiple reports and sources, the singer planned to include an ice rink and over 100 skaters as part of his set. Two of the skaters present at the rehearsal tell rolling stone that Ocean “sounded good” when soundchecking the songs, while one said he seemed “a bit frustrated” with the production.
“There was already not the most positive atmosphere because everything was so late,” adds the other skater. “He was asking (questions) in a tone like ‘wanting them to take responsibility’…At one point they cut off their ears because they realized we could all hear.”
“There was a lot of production (elements) that Frank had planned that at the last minute didn’t come to fruition,” a separate source added. “It ruined everything, so it was a scramble after that.”
A representative for Coachella promoter Goldenvoice did not respond. rolling stone‘s request for comment for this story. A representative for Ocean declined to comment.
Ocean had planned a “winter wonderland” style show on a skating rink, but “much of it has been scrapped,” the source added. The description of the performance matches what two hired hockey players – who said they were supposed to be part of Ocean’s show – shared during an appearance on the Empty nets podcast earlier this week. The skaters said the “skating portion planned for the show was going to be huge,” they said.
The production manager of another artist who performed on the main stage last weekend said rolling stone they had to work around the rink in the days leading up to filming Ocean, saying they were surprised when Ocean and the performers never hit the secondary ice stage on Sunday.
While it’s unclear which songs Ocean plans to include in his final setlist, skaters at Thursday’s rehearsal say rolling stone that the singer has checked out the sound of tracks such as 2018’s “Moon River” and Blond‘s “Pretty sweet”. THE Blond The performance of the song was supposed to see the skaters engage in an elaborate number that involved a mock fight between the performers and “circling the drain” type choreography.
Ocean also rehearsed a rendition of the Justice remix of “Dear April,” a song he released in 2020 after premiering it at a NYC PrEP+ party earlier that year. (On stage Sunday, Ocean referenced the gay-focused events he would be hosting as he addressed the crowd after DJ Crystallmess’ EDM portion of the performance.)
While those three tracks weren’t played on Sunday, a source close to Ocean previously said rolling stone that Ocean’s set ran 15 minutes longer than originally planned, despite the delay and curfew.
For some of the performers, the uncertainty surrounding his headlining show continued into Sunday, just hours before Ocean took the stage. One skater said ‘things started to fall apart’, after some skaters received ‘confusing messages’ from the production team.
A source, who earlier noted the performance’s production issues with rolling stonesays the set’s “dancing security guard” — who is actually New Orleans-based rebound artist Ha Sizzle — was meant to play a “bigger role” during the show.
“For him to give me the opportunity to bring New Orleans and Bounce music to the international stage, talk about who he is and show that he hasn’t forgotten where he comes from,” said said Sizzle. rolling stone when asked to comment on his inclusion on the show. He did not comment on his role change. “Everyone complains about the show, but in New Orleans we love the attention it gives us. And you, Frank.
As Billboard reported Friday, Ocean’s last-minute cancellation could cost Goldenvoice millions of dollars, including money spent on the ice and the talent to replace him. Ocean also received a $45,000 fee for playing after curfew, per Billboard, though the report claims he didn’t start his performance until late and played after curfew because staff at Coachella took nearly an extra hour to set the stage for Ocean’s performance.
Her set was one of the most anticipated Coachella headliners in years. The enigmatic singer hadn’t performed a live show since 2017, and the pandemic interrupted his 2020 performance for another three years. With Ocean rarely in the public eye, many festival-goers expected a landmark performance as defining in Coachella’s history as Beyoncé’s in 2018.
The show would eventually receive mixed reviews, with Ocean himself calling it “chaotic”. Earlier on the day of her performance, Coachella and YouTube announced that Ocean’s show would not be livestreamed, unlike most sets. He started his set about an hour late, took long breaks between songs and abruptly ended the concert, citing a city-imposed curfew. The stage was also covered by a massive screen, allowing only a small portion of a performance area from which the crowd could directly view Ocean and some performers, and the screen flashed various scenes from the stage, including including close-ups of the singer’s face.
During the performance, Ocean showed moments of vulnerability, sharing a touching story about going to Coachella with her brother Ryan, who died in 2020 in a car crash. “One of my fondest memories was watching Rae Sremmurd with my brother (at Coachella), I know he would have been so excited to be here with all of us,” he said.
Ocean addressed the crowd several times and teased new music, but was rarely seen facing the audience during the set. After the performance, video surfaced of one of the skaters of Ocean sitting on the stage floor solo and shaking backstage while Crystallmess deejayed some tunes for the crowd.
Some attendees, including Justin Bieber, praised Ocean’s performance for its artistry and vulnerability, but many festival-goers came away disappointed and confused by the performance.
Many Ocean fans have come to her defense against any criticism, noting the grief Ocean may still feel over the loss of her brother, her integrity towards her artistic vision, and questioning the very nature of what a headliner set should be or how much all the artist owes in a show.
“It was chaotic. There is beauty in chaos. It’s not what I intended to show, but I enjoyed being there and I’ll see you soon,” said Ocean in a statement.
Blink-182 was officially announced as Ocean’s replacement to headline Sunday night Wednesday, while EDM trio Skrillex, Fred Again.. and Four Tet are set to play a closing electronic set right after. Weekend 2 of the festival kicked off on Friday.